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Repressed or dormant memories of clergy abuse prior to 2003:

Unfortunately, the media does not usually differentiate between recovered and dormant memories. They generally use the term recovered memories for in both instances. Thus, a few of the following may actually be dormant memories with a much greater likelihood of being related to real events.

  1. 1993 - Massachusetts: Cynthia Lewis was with her mother who was dying of cancer. Her memories of child sexual abuse by Rev. Alfred R. Desrosiers were triggered by her mother's request to see Desrosiers, who had been a long-time family friend. Corroborative evidence existed in the form of "conversations Father Desrosiers had with Louis E. Gelineau, then Bishop of Providence, and the Rev. Normand Godin after Lewis reported her recalled memories to the diocese." 1 This may have been an incident of dormant memories which come flooding back into consciousness almost instantaneously.
  2. 1995-MAY: Maryland: In a decision from the era when recovered memory therapy was at its most popular, a judge in Baltimore dismissed a lawsuit brought by two former female students against a Roman Catholic priest who allegedly molested them almost 25 years previously when they were in high school. They claimed that they developed "amnesiac aspect of post-traumatic stress disorder" from the early 1970's until a few years ago. The judge said that the plaintiffs didn't demonstrate that PTSD "automatically leads one to amnesia. This is a leap of faith this court cannot make...The court in no way is judging [the women's] credibility, but their recollection. That did not meet the test of scientific reliability...No empirical studies verify the existence of repressed memory...There is no way to test the validity of these memories." In 1996-JUL, the Maryland Court of Appeals, refused to recognize "repressed memories" as a basis for postponing the filing deadline, noting that "studies purporting to validate repression theory are justly criticized as unscientific, unrepresentative and biased." Paul McHugh testified as an expert witness, discounted the scientific validity of their claims of recovered memory. In their decision, Judge Robert L. Karwacki stated "We are unconvinced that repression exists as a phenomenon separate and apart from the normal process of forgetting." 2
  3. 1996: Massachusetts: John Robatille retrieved memories of having been sexually abused by Father James Porter. The memories were triggered by reports that Robatille had read about Frank Fitzpatrick, a fellow victim of Porter. "His specific memories were confirmed by two classmates… Harvard psychiatrist Stuart Grassian surveyed 43 [of the Porter victims] in 1993 and found another 8 - or 19 percent - who reported no thoughts or memories of the childhood abuse until the case broke in the media." They also appear to have been dormant memories triggered by news reports and were not recovered memories retrieved during therapy. 3
  4. 2001-OCT: Arizona: In his "Special Report to the Laity, Religious, and Clergy of the Diocese of Tucson," the Most Rev. Manuel D. Moreno, Roman Catholic Bishop of Tucson reported on a number of allegations of abuse from 1966 to 1979. Seven of the nine suits filed against the Diocese from 1997 to 2001-AUG were based on recovered memories. "The suits say that those making the allegations did not remember the abuse until years later, past the time when the allegations could have been dealt with criminally or civilly within the allowed statutory time. Arizona law allows consideration of repressed memory as a reason for not meeting time requirements of the statute of limitations." 4 In a later question and answer essay, the diocese settled 11 repressed memory lawsuits totaling an estimated $15 million dollars out of a total of 16 cases. 5
  5. 2002-APR-15: Oregon: TV station KOIN of Portland OR carried a news item relating to allegations of sexual abuse in Mount Angel Abbey -- allegedly "an environment in which bizarre sexual behavior was normalized." The alleged victim, David Schmidt, says that he repressed the abuse memories until about two years ago. Sociologist Kathy Farr said during the news item that recovered memories aren't always entirely accurate. 6
  6. 2002-MAY-4: Massachusetts: Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said that three of the four lawsuits alleging abuse by Rev. Paul R. Shanley in Newton, MA, are based on recovered or repressed memories. He believes that repressed memory is a "totally legitimate psychological phenomenon." 7
  7. 2002-MAY-18: Hawaii: Darick Agasiva and Fa'amoana Purcell, filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court claiming that they were molested at St. John the Baptist Church in Kalihi, HI by a priest in the mid 1980's when they were in the fifth or sixth grade. The media account says that they had repressed the memories until recently. 8
  8. 2002-MAY-22: Wisconsin: Keven Kratsch of Oskhos, WI alleges that he recovered memories of sexual abuse when he underwent counseling for an unrelated matter in 1985. He did not discuss his memories with anyone until 1992 when he went to a lawyer to see if he could sue the Episcopal diocese. He found out that the statute of limitations had expired. The alleged perpetrator was Father Charles Edward Bartholomew, with whom Kratsch lived for a year. 9
  9. 2002-MAY-26: New York: According to the Associated Press, attorney Lee Greenstein of Albany, NY "said he has a client who repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse [by a priest] until recently so the usual statute of limitations might not apply." 10
  10. 2002-JUN-7: Massachusetts: Kevin Kelly, 35, alleges that he was raped by a Roman Catholic Priest when he was 12 years old, circa 1979. Kelly said that he did not inform his parents, and for years had repressed the memory. After reporting the allegations to the diocese in 1993, he accepted their offer of $80,000 to drop his lawsuit. 11
  11. 2002-JUN-10: Illinois: An unidentified man, 47, accused Rev. John F. Barrett. a Roman Catholic priest, of sexual misconduct in the late 1960's at Notre Dame Elementary School in Clarendon Hills, IL. The accusations were based on recovered memories. Father Barrett denied the charges, saying: "I think the only reason he said anything is because it came out through this repressed memory syndrome, which I don't know that much about, but I understand is not acceptable that much anymore, and obviously there was nothing to back it up." After an investigation, the Diocese of Joliet found the sexual abuse allegation against him to be unsubstantiated. 12
  12. 2002-JUL-5: Oklahoma: Fr. James Mickus, a Roman Catholic priest was removed from ministry duties because of charges filed against him by a man who claims that Mickus sexually abused him while he was a student at Christ the King School in Oklahoma City, OK, before and during 1980. The ex-student filed a draft petition which claims that Mickus repeatedly abused him and "many other children." The petition also states that the archdiocese was negligent because its representatives knew that Mickus had a mental illness that placed children that he had contact with in danger of sexual abuse. The Oklahoman newspaper reported that: "the man didn't remember the incidents until he received therapy recently." Mickus' attorney, Stephen Jones, said the priest maintains his innocence. "I don't think there is any evidence a crime has been committed. In the 30 years that Father Mickus has been a priest, there have been no other allegations. All I know is this person was not molested by Father Mickus as a child." Fr. Mickus has filed a counter suit, claiming that the ex-student has damaged the priest's reputation and caused his removal. 13
  13. 2002-JUL-18: Illinois:Lynn Miller of Springfield IL wrote a letter to his local newspaper, saying: "I am the son of a protestant minister and was sexually abused in the church as a child. At 12, a visiting minister tried to seduce me for 'an experience of God' with my parents in the next room. It has taken me years to recover my memory, and heal the shame. I have reclaimed my birthright as a child of God." From the language used is seems probable that he recovered his "memory" via recovered memory therapy. 14
  14. 2002-JUL-27: Ontario Canada: A 40 year-old woman from London ON was attending an alternative event to the World Youth Day celebration in Toronto. This event, not approved of or recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, was held at Holy Trinity Church (Anglican) where workshops were held into some of the sexual policies of the Catholic Church. She mentioned to a reporter that she was sexually abused by her parish priest from the age of 9 to 13 while she served as an altar server. She said that she blocked her memory of the abuse for 31 years until a decade ago. She said: "I was such a good Catholic girl until my memory was recovered. As a little girl, I remember thinking it was wrong, but he was a priest, so it couldn't be. I was sexually abused and spiritually raped. When will this end?" She wore a T-shirt that read "Don't Alter Girls." 15
  15. 2002-JUL-30: Wyoming: Bishop Joseph Hart was cleared of sex-abuse allegations. The allegations came from a 39 year old male alleged victim. He recovered "memories" during recovered memory therapy that implied that Hart had coerced him into exposing himself when he was 13 or 14 years of age, in Cheyenne, WY, and Kansas City, MO. After a thorough police investigation, Natrona County District Attorney Kevin Meenan announced that the allegations were "without merit, and therefore the case must be unfounded. The investigator and I both concluded, given all the factors, that there really was no merit to these claims." 16
  16. 2002-AUG-9: Minnesota: Wayne Eller filed a lawsuit in 2002-JUL claiming that he had recovered memories of sexual abuse by his former priest which allegedly happened in the 1960s. The lawyer representing the Diocese of St. Cloud and St. Anthony's Church filed a response, claiming that the plaintiff waited too long to file his claim. They argued that Eller knew about the abuse many years ago when he mentioned it to his grandmother. Eller said that she had sternly disciplined him at the time, and that he then repressed the memory. He apparently only recovered the "memories" recently. The priest involved and two others have received letters from their bishop stating that they can no longer celebrate Mass publicly, wear clerical garb or publicly present themselves as priests. 17
  17. 2002-AUG-23: Louisiana: An unidentified man has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, stating that he was sexually abused by a priest in 1972 when he was a student at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, LA. His lawyer, Darrel Papillion, said that his client repressed the memory of having anal sex with a priest in the rectory, and only recovered it during a recent therapy session in California where he now lives. 18
  18. 2002-OCT-4: Illinois: Former priest, Bill Cloutier, of Skokie, IL had allegedly confessed to molesting three teen-agers while working in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago in 1979. Matthew Dalton, 29, alleges that he has recently recovered memories of having been abused by Cooutier while he was an altar boy in his pre-teens. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that: "Dalton plans to file a civil lawsuit against the archdiocese and Cloutier in the next few weeks." 19
  19. 2002-OCT: Massachusetts: This case, the first lawsuit in seven years in Massachusetts involving clergy abuse, is a little confusing. 20 David Lewcon of Webster MA said that, while he was a 16 or 17 year-old student at St. Mary's church in Uxbridge in 1971, he had been sexually abused by Rev. Thomas Teczar. He said that he had repressed his memories for 22 years. Fr. Teczar said that no sexual contact was made -- only a single backrub which was a non-criminal act at the time because of Lewcon's age. Yet, Lewcon also said that his case did not involve repressed memory syndrome because he has had always-present memories since the time of the alleged abuse. It was only in 1993 when he saw a television program about clergy abuse that he began to understand that he had been harmed by the encounter. 20
  20. 2002-OCT: Kentucky: Emily Feistritzer, 61, of Washington DC recovered memories of having been sexually abused by nuns in Danville KY from 1955 to 1971 while she was a student at at Villa Madonna Academy and St. Walburg Monastery of Benedictine Sisters. She has filed a lawsuit which seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. It says that she has spent more than $200,000 on therapy over more than 20 years. She started to recover memories during therapy about a year ago. This is unusual, because most clients of therapists using Recovered Memory Therapy generate images of abuse much quicker. They are generally false memories, but on rare occasions they are accurate recollections. 21 "Mark Guilfoyle, an attorney for the two defendant institutions, said they have been unable to substantiate any of the allegations and will contest the lawsuit." 22
  21. 2002-OCT: Missouri: James Wisniewski, 41, claims that a currently retired priest, Rev. Raymond Kownacki, abused him from 1973 -- when he was 12 years of age -- to 1978. He filed a lawsuit on OCT-25. The lawsuit states that repressed memory, shame, fear and guilt over the events prevented him from filing earlier. Fr. Kownacki was barred from active ministry in 1995-JAN. 23
  22. 2002-NOV: Florida: "R.E." has filed a lawsuit claiming that a Roman Catholic priest repeatedly raped him many times over a six month interval while he lived in Florida. He had come from Cuba as a youth under the Pedro Pan program which was intended to provide a better life for Cuban children. He said that he recently recovered memories of the abuse. His may well be a case of dormant, not recovered, memories, because they seem to have returned suddenly after he read a psychologists report from his childhood. They apparently did not return as a result of a long series of therapy sessions with a recovered memory therapist. 24
  23. 2002-NOV: Louisiana: "John Doe" has sued Rev. Gerald Prinz, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, St. Gregory Barbarigo Church in Houma, LA, and St. Louis Church in neighboring Bayou Blue, LA. "Doe" alleges that Prinz molested him several times in 1973 and 1978, that he repressed the memories, and only recovered the memories in 1994-NOV. Dr. Edward Shwery, a psychologist, testified that he believed that "Doe" was abused, had repressed his memories and had recovered them in 1994. Church attorneys tried to have Shwery's testimony excluded as unreliable and unscientific. Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Nadine Ramsey ruled that the psychologist's methods had met minimum legal tests when he concluded at least two of Doe's memories were authentic and had been repressed for years. 25 That decision was upheld in 2002-MAY by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal. The Louisiana Supreme Court refused to consider the case. 26
  24. 2002-DEC-5: Ohio: "Jocelyn Stefancin, assistant prosecutor in Wayne County, said her office is investigating a case involving a repressed-memory incident from 1965 to see if enough evidence exists to take the case to a grand jury." 27
  25. 2002-DEC-4: Florida: A former altar boy "John Doe," alleges that he was abused by Fr. Schaeufele between about 1977 to 1981 while the priest was at Epiphany Cathedral Church in Venice, FL. "Doe" has launched a lawsuit against the priest's former employer, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. Schaeufele also faces six other counts involving a total of four other boys. The plaintiff's " J. Meredith Wester...said her client apparently suppressed his memory of the abuse until about four years ago, when he had a flashback triggered by a movie." 28
  26. 2002-DEC-6: Arizona: Rev. Patrick Oliver Colleary, a priest who served in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, was arrested on three counts of alleged child molestation. The plaintiff, Mark Kennedy, was a 10-year-old altar boy when the alleged molestation occurred during 1978. He believes that he repressed memories of the abuse -- memories which were triggered when he saw O'Brien and another Phoenix priest on television in 2002-MAR. His lawyer, Lynn Cadigan, said: "There's no evidence Kennedy ever remembered it prior to that." She added that independent evidence and witnesses support his claim. However, Colleary has passed a polygraph test. 29
  27. 2002-DEC-20: Massachusetts: In 1992, Joseph Hickey accused his uncle, Rev. Hickey, of sexual abuse when Joseph was 4, 5 and 13 years of age. Another nephew, Daniel Hickey, also claims that Hickey abused him; he reported the abuse in 2002. "The Hickeys claimed their memories of abuse were repressed for several years, but they recalled them during therapy later in life." 30
  28. 2002-DEC-21: Missouri: David Clohessy named "intriguing person:" advocate for the abused:" People magazine named David Clohessy. 46, one of "The 25 most intriguing people of 2002." He is the national director of the 4,500-member Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). According to People Magazine: "As an altar boy in Moberly, MO, he says, he was repeatedly molested by Father John Whiteley -- his dad's best friend....Clohessy had long blocked out his abuse -- until it came rushing back after he saw the 1987 film Nuts, which deals with recovered memories. Compounding the anguish, his estranged brother Kevin, 43, a priest who Clohessy says was also one of Whiteley's victims, was accused of molesting a male college student in 1993." 31 This appears to be a case of dormant memories.

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  1. Tom Mooney, "Why a court accept ‘recovered-memory: While its legal validity is debate in one sexual-abuse case, a judge rules that it is reliable and admissible in a trial involving a Catholic priest," Providence Journal-Bulletin, 1998-APR-13, Page A1. Cited in "The Recovered Memory Project" at:
  2. Harrison G. Pope, Jr. & James I. Hudson, "Can memories of childhood sexual abuse be repressed?," 25 Psychol. Med. 121 (1995).
  3. Katy Butler, "The Latest on Recovered Memory," Family Therapy Networker, 1996-NOV/DEC, Page 36. Cited in "The Recovered Memory Project" at:
  4. Manuel Moreno, "Restoring Trust: A special report to the Laity, Religious and Clergy of the diocese of Tucson," at:
  5. News item, KOIN-TV, Portland OR, 2002-APR-15.
  6. "Questions and Answers Regarding the Settlement and Related Issues," at:
  7. Sacha Pfeiffer, "Crisis in the church; Shanley set for Mass. return...." Boston Globe, 2002-MAY-4, Page A1.
  8. "Priest accused of molesting alter boys in mid-1980s," Associated Press, 2002-MAY-18.
  9. "Episcopal Diocese dealing with allegations of sexual abuse," Associated Press, 2002-MAY-23.
  10. "Attorneys say more sex-abuse cases against priests are likely," Albany, NY, Associated Press, 2002-MAY-26.
  11. Robert Sears, "Priests' accusers tell of tormented lives; Quincy man breaks silence," The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA, 2002-JUN-7, Page 1.
  12. Maureen O'Donnell, "Priest 'very thrilled' to be back," Chicago Sun-Times, 2002-JUN-10, Page 6.
  13. Dawn Marks, "Priest seeks damages in suit against accuser," The Oklahoman, 2002-JUL-06.
  14. Lynn Miller, "Church has participated in the ultimate betrayal," Letters column, State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), 2002-JUL-18.
  15. Isabel Teotonio, "Abuse victims relive pain," Toronto Star, 2002-JUL-27, Page A25.
  16. Kelly Milner, "Hart cleared of sex abuse," Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 2002-JUL-30, Front page.
  17. "Lawyer: Statute of limitations blocks sex abuse lawsuit," Associated Press, 2002-AUG-9.
  18. "Man claims sexual abuse by priest 30 years ago," Associated Press, 2002-AUG-23
  19. Kate N. Grossman, "Ex-priest: 'I got away with murder,' " Chicago Sun-Times, 2002-OCT-4, Page 8.
  20. "No damages for alleged abuse victim; more suits filed in Geoghan case," Associated Press, 2002-OCT-3.
  21. "Former nun files lawsuit alleging abuse by nuns," Associated Press, 2002-OCT-11.
  22. Article,  The Washington Post, 2002-OCT-12, Page A32.
  23. Robert Goodrich, "Man alleging sex abuse sues retired priest, Belleville diocese," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2002-OCT-26, Page 14.
  24. "Suit claims priest raped Cuban boy at refugee camp repeatedly," St. Petersburg Times, 2002-NOV-9, Page 5B.
  25. "Lawsuit against priest cleared for trial," Associated Press, 2002-NOV-13.
  26. "Louisiana Supreme Court opens door for repressed memory cases," False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Newsletter, 2003-JAN/FEB, Page 7.
  27. Colette M. Jenkins and Carl Chancellor, "Retired priest, diocese employees indicted on sex abuse charges," Akron Beacon Journal, 2002-DEC-5.
  28. David Sommer, "Lawsuit claims church liable for misconduct," The Tampa Tribune, 2002-DEC-4, Page 3.
  29. Beth DeFalco, "Arizona priest arrested on child molestation charges," Associated Press, 2002-DEC-6.
  30. Article: The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA, 2002-DEC-20, Page 17
  31. "The 25 most intriguing people of 2002: David Clohessy, advocate for the abused," People magazine, 2002-DEC-30, Page 110.

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Copyright © 2002 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-JUL-30
Latest update: 2005-FEB-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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